Shiira 2.0 - Revisited


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A public beta [ 2.0b1 ] of the upcoming version of Shiira was made available several months ago on the projects front page, offering the chance for everyone [ with Tiger ] to get up and personal with the new look and features. In an effort to get something relatively stable and functional in the hands of the public, Shiira’s feature set has been stripped down considerably and the app itself, heavily translated.

Since then, a number of newer builds have been made available on the [ jp ] Sourceforge servers in various stages of development, albeit somewhat sporadically. The latest of which is build 061119.

More recently still, a second public beta [ 2.0b2 ] was quietly released, however, as of yet, the projects [ english ] front page hasn’t been updated to reflect this [ Update: Site was updated on 12 December, six days after the Japanese site [ recently moved to a new domain ]. More excitingly, the source code for this version has also been made publicly available. Access to the code should be a huge help to those potential plug-in developers lurking in the background!

It is worth noting that this review relates directly to the latest nightly [ 061119 ] as the majority of it was written before the release of the second beta, but after putting 2.0b2 through a day or two of heavy browsing, I have made amendments to this post where appropriate.

Bookmark Bar

The Bookmark Bar was an aspect of Shiira I hadn’t really covered in the previous post—it pretty much worked as expected and didn’t offer anything radically different to the Bookmark Bar in the 1.2.x branch. The beta release however, introduces a handful of new features, one of which [ that is new to Shiira, but long time users of Camino will be used to ] is an option to allow bookmarks to wrap onto multiple lines rather than collecting the overflow items in a menu. While this is not something I tend to use, it is nice to have the option.

Auto Tab Folders and Javascript bookmarklets displayed the Bookmark Bar now have small monochromatic icons to help differentiate them from standard bookmarks—Javascript bookmarklets display a small ‘cog’ icon and Auto Tab Folders now display a small ’stack’ icon [ Unfortunately, Favicons aren’t currently supported ]. Normal folders still display a small downward pointing arrow indicating a popup menu as per previous builds.

Bookmark(let)s and Folders assigned to the Bookmark Bar now provide user feedback by darkening when rolled over and invert when clicked [ previous builds just darken briefly when clicked ] also Folders now expand to display their contents in a popup menu [ as per previous 1.2.x releases ] when selected, however Folders marked as ‘自動タブ’ [ Auto Tab ] don’t expand/work in the official beta. As a work around, unchecking this option from within the Shelf will allow Users to control-click/right-click folders and select ‘Open in Tabs’ from the contextual menu.

In addition, Javascript bookmarklets now have a custom icon/favicon when viewed in the Folder popup or within the Shelf.

Unfortunately, these items still cannot be rearranged via drag and drop directly in the Bookmark bar; they must be managed within the Shelf with the changes reflected only in new windows.

The Shelf

As mentioned in the previous post, the Shelf underwent a series of small changes during the course of writing the review, column view was removed from Bookmark section, the bookmark listings and detail area became a split view and the ‘Tiger blue’ 1 bar was replaced with a ‘Delicious Wood’ 2 bar to name a few. In this latest build, column view returns to the Bookmark Section, appearing within the plain ‘wooden’ 3 bar along with ‘list view’ and an ‘Action’ popup [ the Action popup offers users the same options as control-clicking/right-cllicking a bookmark ].

Update: Shiira 2.0b2 introduces yet another style of bar—a graphite blue version 4 similar in style to Tiger’s Mail badges.

Ultimately, the inclusion of the search field [ when re-introduced ] to [ the right side of ] the bar would help capitalise on this space.

The Shelf is certainly still a work in progress and is constantly evolving. All sections require a considerable amount of work before this version can be considered ready for a [ major ] public release.

New sections for the Address Book, RSS, Bonjour and Downloads have been created although most are marked with a ‘Not Implemented’ placeholder.

RSS Feed Reader

Preliminary support for RSS feeds has also been added to this Beta build. Like the prototype builds, Shiira will display a small RSS feed icon in the bottom left hand corner of the browser window for sites that have feeds available, however clicking this icon will now open the feed in a new tab. Two display options are available, a full tab .html based version of the summaries in a continuous list and a NSTableView view of the headlines with summaries displayed in a WebKit split view.

Along with a handful of other applications [ such as Opera 9 and Internet Explorer 7 ], Shiira now employs the use of Firefox’s feed icon [ the orange, round cornered square with white radio waves ] to indicate available feeds. What’s curious about Shiira’s implementation is not the adoption of the icon, but rather that the icon is still rendered in the ‘Safari RSS’ blue instead of the more traditional [ or standard ] orange. From the screenshots posted in Apple’s ‘Sneak Peek‘ of Leopard, the next version of OS X, it appears they are opting to stick with the ‘Safari RSS’ badge [ blue rectangle with RSS in white caps ]—perhaps Shiira is intentionally keeping a foot in both camps?

Still noticeably absence from the Beta is the ability to add new feeds. Closely linked with the ability to add new bookmarks [ or Search Engines for that matter ], adding RSS feeds seems purposely omitted. Nightly builds indicate a move towards a dedicated section within the Shelf for feed management, a direction a great deal of current users will no doubt applaud. While version 1.2.x did provide a Sidebar tab for displaying feeds and their summaries, management was split between both this and the Bookmark tab, confusing both new and seasoned users.

404 Error

Rather than displaying error messages in sheets as per previous versions, Shiira now inform the user in-page of the event in much the same way as Safari does except Shiira uses a custom .html template outside the application bundle to render the information. This means errors no longer block access to Shiira’s GUI and can be dealt with when the user wishes rather than being forced to immediately.

Change is good but dollars are better.

It seems development of new features is slowing and existing features are receiving a little more polish. The Navigation HUD present during Fullscreen mode now ’slides’ onto the screen [ either from the top or bottom relative on the users screen location ] to meet the pointer when it enters a certain region rather than fading in each time the pointer is moved [ the older approach was usable but quickly became irritating when performing tasks such as scrolling, selecting form fields or clicking links… ]. The HUD is not and no longer needs to be, re-positional.

While the nightly builds offered both traditional Tabs and the newer PageDock, only the latter works [ both options do work however, in the official beta release ]. Selecting the Tab Bar option within the ‘PageDock & Tab’ section of Shiira’s preferences would render the main window grey. The newer beta release addresses and corrects this bug [ as does the 061119 nightly ], but unfortunately, the ability to reposition both the traditional tabs and the newer PageDock tabs via drag and drop is currently missing from these newer builds.

The HUD panels have also undergone a number of extensive revisions and now more closely resemble, visually, Apple’s HUD panels. Unfortunately, there are still some issues when rendering folders within the Bookmark panel [ they are not correctly indented to compensate for the ‘disclosure’ toggle ] making it difficult to read the folder name. At this point the panel merely lists the bookmark collection, users are unable to load bookmarks, as expected, when double clicking items. This build is also missing support for displaying Favicons.

Conclusion

This release is considerably better than the previous version but is still not quite really for the limelight—and the developers seem to think so too. Shiira still can’t be set as the default browser and pages can’t be bookmarked [ although you can add/delete folders in the Shelf ] in 2.0b2 indicating that perhaps this functionality has been disabled until the application reaches the point where they would like people to start using the browser in a daily environment.

There is still quite a bit of work to be done and a lot of bugs to be fixed, but hopefully, with access to the code, more and more developers will start lending a hand and the project will start to move along a bit quicker.


  1. Original ‘Tiger Blue’ Shelf

  2. Newer ‘Delicious Wood’ version

  3. ‘Plain Wood’ version used in the public beta

  4. ‘Graphite Blue’ version from new 2.0b2 release


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